1. Digging up the Past: “Jewish Shrines for David” and Bible History Daily: “Breaking News—Evidence of Cultic Activity in Judah Discovered at Khirbet Qeiyafa

Impressive fortress at Khirbet Qeiyafa likely represents the Jewish challenge to Philistine power 3,000 years ago.

Khirbet Qeiyafa is an archaeological dig site overlooking the Valley of Elah where David defeated the Philistine champion Goliath in the time of King Saul. Its discovery in 2008 challenged those who claimed no powerful centralized Jewish authority existed 3,000 years ago. Newly discovered evidence suggests Khirbet Qeiyafa was a strong fortress under the control of a newly established Jewish monarchy, possibly the biblical King Saul or King David.

“This is the first time that archaeologists uncovered a fortified city in Judah from the time of King David,” Hebrew University’s Yosef Garfinkel explains. “Even in Jerusalem we do not have a clear fortified city from his period. Thus, various suggestions that completely deny the biblical tradition regarding King David and argue that he was a mythological figure, or just a leader of a small tribe, are now shown to be wrong.”

Khirbet Qeiyafa

Fortress town of Khirbet Qeiyafa on the ancient Philistine border overlooking the historic Valley of Elah (1 Samuel 17:19).1

At the time of the David and Goliath encounter, the Philistines were attempting to reassert dominion over King Saul and his people. The Philistine dominion over the Hebrews had lasted several decades. Khirbet Qeiyafa, dated about 1020 to 980 B.C., was an imposing fortress town strategically located near the Philistine border, perhaps the very sort of fortress that would draw a military response from the affronted Philistines.

Writing found at Khirbet Qeiyafa has not named its ruler, but the writing is in ancient Hebrew, not Philistine or Canaanite. In contrast to the artifacts of typical Canaanite sites, those at Khirbet Qeiyafa have two Jewish distinctives: the religious artifacts are conspicuously lacking in graven images, and the garbage is conspicuously lacking in pig bones.

Garfinkel and Saar Ganor of the Israel Antiquities Authority consider their new trove of religious artifacts the first definitive archaeological evidence of architectural styles and Jewish religious practices from 3,000 years ago. Although the site pre-dates Solomon’s temple, two miniature “portable shrines” are carved with elaborate external architectural details—an elaborate façade with lions and birds. In fact, experts believe the models may help interpret some of biblical details of Solomon’s temple.

Clay Shrine

Portable clay shrine with pillars and elaborate façade with stylized drapery and three birds above the entrance and a lion’s head at the bottom left.2

Such “portable shrines” were common religious objects of the era and usually contained idols. These, however, are empty. Garfinkel says, “Over the years [since 2008], thousands of animal bones were found, including sheep, goats and cattle, but no pigs. Now we uncovered three cultic rooms, with various cultic paraphernalia, but not even one human or animal figurine was found. This suggests that the population of Khirbet Qeiyafa observed two biblical bans—on pork and on graven images—and thus practiced a different cult than that of the Canaanites or the Philistines.” Thus the archaeologists infer the occupants of Khirbet Qeiyafa were Jewish.

Ostraca are shards of pottery on which the ancients wrote. According to translator Émile Puech of the École Biblique et Archéologique Française in Jerusalem, ostraca from Khirbet Qeiyafa imply the rise of a strong new monarchy. For instance, one text expresses the necessity of acceding to higher authority and refers to those who “have established a king.”3 Various ostraca concerning taxation and judicial matters imply centralization of authority “beyond the powers of a ‘petty chieftan.’” Puech’s interpretation would fit either King Saul’s or King David’s administration.

Because the Bible is the complete written revelation of God, not every detail of it appears in the fragmentary findings of archaeology, nor do we rely on archaeological findings to “prove” the Bible. However, archaeological findings confirm and illuminate biblical history. This debris left by people long dead testifies to the truth of God’s Word and their part in His plan. The stones of Khirbet Qeiyafa cry out its ancient inhabitants’ determination to live and worship in a way distinct from that of their neighbors. These people chose to follow God. They were part of God’s ongoing plan to sanctify a people through whom He would preserve written revelation of Himself in the Bible. And through this people, descended from King David as the Scriptures say, God ultimately sent Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world.

2. Next Generation Science Standards: “Review the Draft Standards

You are invited to influence the Next Generation Science Standards.

Next Generation Science Standards is a project commissioned by 26 states to develop K-12 science education standards for the next generation. With a goal of improving the quality of science education in the United States, the proposed standards are modeled on the National Research Council’s Framework for K-12 Science Education.4 Until June 1, the developers of the standards are inviting public input.5 Many states are likely to adopt the new standards. This is your chance to let your voice be heard, perhaps influencing the face of science education in the United States for years to come.

The proposed standards suggest teaching each discipline in greater depth while showing how scientific principles apply across all disciplines. As such, they should increase both the knowledge base and critical thinking skills.

The new standards stress “understanding the Nature of Science.”6 By this they mean using evidence to build scientific explanations of the natural world. However, the standards do not distinguish between observational and historical science or explain the role of observer bias in scientific interpretation.

Several examples of observational science are provided to illustrate the way scientific models are developed, but the document fails to mention that scientific explanations offered in the area of historical (or origins) science are inevitably dependent on worldview-biased assumptions. No one can perform repeatable scientific tests to elucidate the origins of life, the earth, or the universe. Those events already occurred in the past and cannot be reproduced in the present. Thus any conclusions about the origins of life, the earth and the universe depend upon the starting assumptions of the investigator, including his acceptance or rejection of God’s eyewitness account in the Bible.

As to specific teaching standards regarding origins, molecules-to-man evolution is presented as fact alongside observable principles of natural selection and speciation, without distinction. Just before a high school standard concerning natural selection, the draft states:

Genetic information, like the fossil record, also provides evidence of evolution. DNA sequences vary among species, but there are many overlaps; in fact, the ongoing branching that produces multiple lines of descent can be inferred by comparing the DNA sequences of different organisms. Such information is also derivable from the similarities and differences in amino acid sequences and from anatomical and embryological evidence.7

Natural selection and speciation are observable in the world today. But unverifiable “common ancestry” based on the fossil record, genetic information, and embryonic development is presented as if equally observable. In reality, for example, “embryological evidence” cannot offer support for evolution of new kinds of creatures but only for the development of young creatures. Any other evolutionary interpretation is imaginatively imposed on the evidence.

The middle school section states evolutionary history can be documented and its specifics inferred from anatomical homologies and the fossil record. The draft states:

Anatomical similarities and differences between various organisms living today, and between them and organisms in the fossil record, enable the reconstruction of evolutionary history and the inference of the lines of evolutionary descent.8

Neither the fossil record nor homologies demonstrate the transitional forms necessary to support evolutionary claims of one kind of creature changing into a different kind (e.g., a reptile into a bird or mammal or an ape into a human). Furthermore, evolutionary dogma cannot account for the origin of new genetic information required for upward evolution.

Additionally, the draft unequivocally states the earth and the solar system were formed 4.6 billion years ago9 and has experienced multiple ice ages.10 It explains the solar system’s origin by the nebular hypothesis11 and says, “The universe began with a period of extreme and rapid expansion known as the Big Bang.”12 These ideas, though commonly held among evolutionary scientists, again rest on unverifiable assumptions about the past. Furthermore, the fact that commonly accepted explanations for the formation of the solar system and the universe are at variance with some laws of physics is ignored.

While these proposed standards are no great surprise, they will become standard in states that ultimately adopt them. If they are adopted in their present form, a mandate to teach molecules-to-man evolution and evolutionary cosmology could potentially de-rail the recent gains in some states now allowing open discussion of the scientific problems with evolutionary thinking. Many aspects of these standards should promote critical thinking skills, but the failure to distinguish between observational/experimental science and historical/origins science and the difference between observations, assumptions, and interpretations will have the opposite effect.

We have never advocated the required teaching of creation science in public schools. However, teaching conventional evolutionary origins science without the opportunity to critically analyze assumptions on which it is based restricts academic freedom and robs children of the opportunity to develop critical thinking skills and to really see the “nature of science.”

Until June 1, the public has an opportunity to offer input. Here is a chance to make a difference by letting your voice be heard. You can go to www.nextgenscience.org read the draft and submit your comments.

3. Science Daily: “First Ever Record of Insect Pollination from 100 Million-Years Ago

Tiny insects pollinated plants in the “age of the dinosaurs.”

Amber from Lower Cretaceous rock in the Basque country of northern Spain has preserved several pollen-covered thrips. Thrips today eat pollen, mites, or plant juices. They may be considered pests, pollinators, or both. Of course there is no way to know the lifestyle of the varieties in the amber, but scientists consider them the first fossil proof of primitive pollinators.

Thrips

Synchrotron X-ray tomography reveals pollen grains covering these thrips trapped in amber.13

Thysanopteran

Pollen attached to the abdomen and wing of a thysanopteran insect in amber.14

Ring Setae

Close-up of pollen attached to ring setae.15

High-resolution images reveal these 2 mm long flying insects were well equipped to collect and carry pollen. They have “highly specialized hairs with a ringed structure to increase their ability to collect pollen grains.” Bees are similarly equipped.

“We also see these ring setae, or ring hairs, in modern pollinators such as domestic bees and some flies,” explains X-ray synchrotron tomography expert Carmen Soriano. “At very high magnification, we can see that these hairs are mostly in the dorsal part of the thrips and that’s also where we observe most of the attached pollen. So, our theory is that these hairs would have been used by the female thrips to gather as much pollen as possible to take back to their larvae.”16

Although “older” thrips have been identified in Permian rock, these pollen-encrusted specimens are dated 105-110 million years old by evolutionary reckoning. They have been assigned to a new genus, Gymnopollisthrips. “This is the oldest direct evidence for pollination, and the only one from the age of the dinosaurs,” says Soriano. “The co-evolution of flowering plants and insects, thanks to pollination, is a great evolutionary success story. It began about 100 million years ago, when this piece of amber fossil was produced by resin dropping from a tree, which today is the oldest fossil record of pollinating insects. Thrips might indeed turn out to be one of the first pollinator groups in geological history, long before evolution turned some of them into flower pollinators.”

Researchers suspect the pollen came from gingko trees. Evolutionists believe flowering plants evolved about 90 million years ago, but gingko trees appear lower in the geologic column in Permian layers. So do thrips. The researchers suggest the insects could have used gingko ovules for a shelter and nursery, transporting pollen from male cones to female ovules to feed their young, thus pollinating gingkoes in the process. The pollen collecting equipment would thus be mutually advantageous for thrips and the sheltering gingko.

Admittedly, this scenario is speculative. The pollen on the insect is a “smoking gun” that can only hint at the whole story. As co-author Conrad Labandeira admits, “To some degree all the evidence we have for insect pollination is indirect because we don’t have any insects ‘caught in the act’, so to speak. That would involve finding a structure, an ovule, with a reward such as nectar or pollen, and the insect with its mouth parts preserved inside that structure. That has yet to be found in the fossil record. So, we must build a circumstantial case that pollination took place. And I think our ambers are a good bet because we have these structures on the insects’ bodies that would only be the most parsimoniously interpretable as structures used for pollination.”16

Notice this researcher acknowledges the behavioral conclusions about these insects are conjectural because they cannot be observed. Yet the same should be said about the evolutionary conclusions. Flowering plants, gingkoes, thrips, and pollen all exist in the fossil record. And they likely interacted with mutual advantage within their (pre-Flood) ecosystems as living things do today. But there is no record of the evolutionary rise of any of them or any observable evidence that new kinds of organisms can evolve from simpler kinds. The fossil record documents the catastrophic burial of many living things but not their evolutionary appearance.

These well-preserved insects appear to have functioned prior to the Flood just like their modern counterparts. God created both plants and insects during Creation week, about 6,000 years ago, already able to reproduce after their kinds. We have His Word on it. Therefore, specialized features to facilitate pollination could have been provided by God whether or not the insect “needed” them, though we can infer from living thrips that pollen was a likely food source. Either way, neither the specialized insect features nor flowering plants had to evolve. Much of the fossil record reflects the order in which pre-Flood habitats were destroyed during the Flood. Flowering plants appear higher in the geologic column, suggesting the pre-Flood habitats in which they were prominent were engulfed a bit later than those in which the gingko and other nonflowering plants dominated.

4. New Scientist: “Zoologger: Bug evolved a self-propelling corkscrew

Secret of self-propelled cyanobacterium’s internal corkscrew unveiled.

Ubiquitous in the world’s oceans, the tiny Synechococcus, a kind of cyanobacteria, motors mysteriously along without benefit of flagella or cilia or any other visible means of propulsion. How does it do it? Kurt Ehlers and George Oster have figured it out.

They developed their model by comparing electron micrographs of Synechococcus to the unusual internal mechanics of a microorganism that wriggles through slimy dirt. Mathematical simulations confirmed their proposed model could generate the swimming speed Synechococcus achieves in water. Furthermore, by observing the handicap imposed by a mutation, they elucidated the function of an integral part of the locomotor mechanism of this unusual microbe.

Ehlers and Oster discovered that inside Synechococcus is a continuous looped helical molecular track—a sort of a corkscrew. Powered by proton transport, tiny protein motors seem to travel along this helical track causing outer surface distortions. These distortions generate coordinated waves on the surface. By themselves, however, these waves would not be powerful enough to propel Synechococcus forward.

The microbe’s surface is covered with a layer of crystalline molecules called an S-layer. These crystals are placed at precise 60° angles. The crystals in the S-layer amplify the wave motion of the surface distortions, enabling the microbe to motor through the water. The S-layer is an expression of a gene called SwmA. If SwmA is mutated then the microbe can spin in place but not travel forward, confirming that without both the S-layer and the helical motor, Synechococcus could not swim.

The researchers who discovered the secret of Synechococcus’s success make no evolutionary claims in their published work.17 However, the journalist covering the story for NewScientist, after mentioning that the rotating axles of flagella “drive creationists nuts,” wrote, “It seems nature didn’t just evolve the rotating axle: it also evolved a self-propelled corkscrew.”

The flagellum is an irreducibly complex molecular machine. It is made of many essential parts, and it will not function as a means of locomotion unless all are present. The flagellum’s parts include a rotating axle, a power source utilizing proton transport, and a whip-like structure made of many proteins.

Evolutionists try to get around the problem of irreducible complexity by claiming each part of the flagellum evolved for other uses. Then, they say, when all the parts finally finished evolving, they were co-opted to make functional flagella for locomotion. However, from an evolutionary point of view there is no reason a part transitioning to its new function would be preserved in its intermediate state until all parts were ready. Many complex components require additional complex molecular machinery for their assembly. And at least 30 of the 40 essential components are unexplainable by co-option. (Read more about flagella at The Amazing Motorized Germ.)

Similarly, these newly described molecular corkscrew wave-generators appear to be another marvelous example of irreducibly complex design. Evolution cannot explain the source of all the information to build flagella or the Synechococcus’s locomotive mechanism. Even the fact that the mutation of just the gene responsible for the wave-amplifying S-layer reduces the Synechococcus to an aimlessly spinning paralytic hints at the irreducibly complex design of our creative Creator God.

5. ScienceNews: Traces of Inaugural Life

The stone starter for a nourishing primordial soup remains as lifeless as ever.

Like the fabled stone soup, a well-garnished primordial soup is being built by geological and biological contributions. In the ancient fable, villagers readily contributed nourishing additions to a pot containing only boiling water and a stone. Why? Because they believed the pot already contained a yummy organic soup starter. Though the end product was tasty, the stone that got everybody excited never had any life of its own.

A featured ScienceNews essay recounts the mutual enthusiasm of geologists and biologists seeking to discover the chemical origins of life. As evolutionary biologist Bill Martin explains, “We’re conditioned to see what we’re looking for, and if no one knows what to look for in terms of these signs of life, they won’t find them. What I think is really exciting is that we know what to look for now, and we have expectations of finding these biosignatures that could extend back to the Hadean [pre-Archean]” (supposedly more than 3.85 billion years ago). Yet chemical signatures paint only the picture evolutionists already believe and inevitably fail to breathe evolutionary life into lifeless chemicals.

The essay recounts several fronts in the search for “traces of inaugural life.” Evolutionary biologists compare modern life forms to deduce what a Last Universal Common Ancestor (LUCA) must have been like. Since the most necessary proteins would have required potassium ions to function, they postulate life started in a potassium-rich place. Referring to research by Armen Mulkidjanian, as discussed in News to Note, February 25, 2012, the essay describes the role of interdisciplinary cooperation. Mulkidjanian needed a potassium-rich place for life to start because, he explained, “We know that original membranes were very leaky. Cells could keep proteins or nucleotides inside, but not potassium.” Geologists offered ancient warm volcanic ponds rich in potassium, zinc, and phosphate, made to Darwinian order. “That geochemical knowledge is really what fed our biology story,” says Mulkidjanian.

Other scenarios point to hydrothermal vents as the primordial chemical cradle. The essay describes a particular kind of hydrothermal vent in which methane and hydrogen spewing into the ocean cause chemical reactions to produce porous limestone chimneys, acetate, and a life-friendly alkaline environment. Acetate can be used as a biochemical energy source, and, according to Martin, “These microcompartments [pores in the limestone] serve the function of providing a way for chemicals to be concentrated in a physical way without cellular membranes.” Evolutionary biologists hope geologists can spin scenarios in which similar sites could have existed on the early earth.

The essay also explains that biologists want geologists to search for evidence of ancient minerals that would be consistent with metabolic products and their effects on primordial rocks. Evolutionary scientists believe life must have evolved before the Archean rocks were laid down because those rocks contain carbon-rich rocks and bands of rusted iron suggesting photosynthesis and oxygen production had already evolved.

The Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences lists several “chemicals in rocks that could be key signatures of ancient life.” The geobiological challenge is increased because of the way in which earth’s crust and mantle mix in “the planet’s geological mixing bowl.” Thus, many minerals are subjected to high heat that can change their characteristics. The minerals believed sufficiently impervious to heat to offer geochemical evidence of conditions on the early earth are primarily zircon crystals embedded in other rocks. According to geophysicist Norm Sleep, I consider it my duty to provide a shopping list of early environments to these biologists. … Basically all the direct evidence that we have from the Hadean is a collection of crystals that you could fit on the tip of a thimble.”

“Ideas about where life began, whether it was in an ocean or a pond or somewhere else entirely, are still just proposals, hypotheses with bits of evidence,” the writer acknowledges. “The same is true for existing views about when life emerged and what it looked like. But as geologists and biologists continue to learn from each other, they’re turning up new evidence that can strengthen existing scenarios and lead to new ones.” However, the essay reflects the common evolutionary certainty that life did evolve from the random interaction of chemicals billion of years ago.

Though the “how” and the “when” life evolved from lifeless chemicals are subjects for exciting research, the question of “if” is not even entertained. Why? All these questions involve historical science and therefore attempt to draw scientific conclusions without the possibility of performing empirical repeatable scientific tests. The conclusions therefore depend upon the worldview-based assumptions of each scientist. The evolutionary worldview rejects God as the originator of all life and therefore must violate observable biological laws that demonstrate life never randomly emerges from nonliving elements. Evolutionist Martin speaks volumes when he says, “We’re conditioned to see what we’re looking for.” The scientist’s worldview always determines his interpretations in the realm of origins science.

Archean rocks described in the essay are thought by many creationist geologists to have been formed very early in the Creation week.18 Zircons, cited in the essay as a source of information about the early earth, have characteristics most consistent with a young earth, not one billions of years old.19

God created the earth “to be inhabited” (Isaiah 45:18) and populated it with living things about 6,000 years ago. An oxygen-rich atmosphere and the process of photosynthesis were created during that week. Therefore, the presence of “chemical signatures” of early life in ancient rocks is not a surprise. But assertions that chemical evidence of life on the early earth demands a still earlier evolutionary source is nothing more than worldview-based speculation that denies God’s eyewitness account in Genesis.

And Don’t Miss …

  • “A significant step forward in using pluripotent stem cells to repair and replace bone tissue” reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that it may be possible to “grow compact bone in quantities large enough to repair centimeter-sized defects.” The actual study was conducted using human embryonic stem cells but in order to avoid the tumors that are “consistently observed when undifferentiated hESCs are implanted,” the mouse immune systems were suppressed. The bone grafts were grown on scaffolds that guided development and then transplanted into the immunodeficient mice where they continued to produce healthy bone for 8 weeks. Knowing that the new scaffolds are able to successfully guide the pluripotent cells in bone formation, lead author Dr. Darja Marolt is developing technology to use induced pluripotent stem cells to grow bone grafts in patients with traumatic injuries and birth defects. The induced pluripotent stem cells can be produced from a patient’s own cells and therefore should avoid problems of graft rejection. This bone graft engineering technology will represent another therapeutic opportunity to use a patient’s own stem cells, thus avoiding potential immune system problems. There is no need to destroy innocent human life to make this treatment available for patients. In fact, despite headlines hailing the success of embryonic stem cells in this laboratory’s research, the embryonic stem cells have proven impractical for therapeutic use due to their tendency to form tumors.
  • Kentucky U.S. Senator Rand Paul drew criticism from gay activists, conservatives, and political allies when he tried to make a witty comment about President Obama’s declaration in favor of “gay” marriage. (See News to Note, May 12, 2012 for last week’s discussion.) Proponents of gay marriage naturally objected, and some conservatives felt the issue is too serious to warrant a humorous sound bite. But Senator Paul’s serious comments on the issue deserve more attention. Like us, Senator Paul, who came to office last year, found President Obama’s assertion that his views favoring legal recognition of gay marriage were based on the biblical “golden rule” quite a stretch. Then Senator Paul offered some genuine biblical thinking. He said, “Now that doesn’t mean we have to be harsh and mean and hate people. We understand sin and if we believe it’s a sin ... then people sin. We’re not out there preaching some sort of hateful dogma against people. But that doesn’t mean that we have to go ahead and give up our traditions. We’ve got 6,000 years of tradition.” The senator’s words remind us that we all are sinners, that God hates sin but loves sinners, and that we are to imitate Him. The senator’s words also reflect the biblical truth that the true foundation of marriage—as established by the Creator of all about 6,000 years ago—is found in the book of Genesis.

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Footnotes

  1. Image from Khirbet Qeiyafa Archaeological Project through http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/10/khirbet-qeiyafa-archaeology_n_1504722.html. Back
  2. Image from Hebrew University of Jerusalem throughhttp://www.diggingsonline.com/pages/rese/arts/other/2012/qeiyafa01.htm. Back
  3. http://www.bib-arch.org/bar/article.asp?PubID=BSBA&Volume=38&Issue=3&ArticleID=4 Back
  4. Available as a PDF at http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=13165. Back
  5. http://www.nextgenscience.org/next-generation-science-standards Back
  6. http://www.nextgenscience.org/sites/ngss/files/Nature%20of%20Science%20for%20Public%20Release%20FINAL%20PUBLIC%20May%20Draft_0.pdf Back
  7. http://nextgenscience.org/hsls-nse-natural-selection-and-evolution Back
  8. http://www.nextgenscience.org/msls-nsa-natural-selection-and-adaptations Back
  9. http://www.nextgenscience.org/msess-he-history-earth Back
  10. http://www.nextgenscience.org/hsess-cc-climate-change Back
  11. http://www.nextgenscience.org/msess-ssd-space-systems Back
  12. http://www.nextgenscience.org/msess-ss-space-systems Back
  13. Image from the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) in Grenoble, France through http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-18073074. Back
  14. Image from Enrique Peñalver, Instituto Geológico y Minero de España in Madrid through http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120514153113.htm. Back
  15. Image from Conrad Labandeira et al through http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-18073074. Back
  16. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-18073074 Back (1) Back (2)
  17. http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0036081 Back
  18. See chapter 78 in A. Snelling, Earth’s Catastrophic Past for more in formation. Back
  19. See Helium Diffusion Rates Support Accelerated Nuclear Decay, Radioisotopes and the Age of the Earth, http://www.icr.org/zircon-helium/, http://www.icr.org/articles/view/3131/263/, and http://www.icr.org/article/fission-tracks-zircons-evidence-for/ to learn more. Back